Markey Urges EPA to Consider Cancer Risks of GMO Herbicide

For Immediate Release
March 31, 2015

Markey Urges EPA to Consider Cancer Risks of GMO Herbicide

WASHINGTON –Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) today urged the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the opinion of an expert panel convened by the World Health Organization that glyphosate, the main herbicide used on genetically engineered crops is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“Senator Markey’s call for the EPA to weigh this new evidence in its own assessment of the toxic herbicide is absolutely the right call,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the Just Label It campaign. “The explosion of GMO crops has resulted in a surge in glyphosate use on millions of acres of farmland throughout the U.S. For instance, the US Geological Survey has reported that 60-100 percent of Iowa rainwater contains glyphosate.”

“Especially because of GMO proliferation, glyphosate has contaminated the air and drinking water sources for many communities,” Hirshberg said. “But without mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients, consumers who may oppose the widespread use of this probable carcinogen may nevertheless be unwittingly supporting its increased use by spending billions of dollars on foods grown using these practices. In a free market, consumers have the right to know and choose how their food is made, especially if it’s contributing to cancer risks among people. Only mandatory labeling guarantees that right.”

Markey, a longtime advocate on behalf of human health and the environment, asked EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to reassess glyphosate and several other pesticides quickly and consider the WHO panel’s statements when determining whether these products should be restricted more tightly or bear warning labels.

Glyphosate is by far the most popular crop chemical in the U.S., used mostly to kill weeds near corn and soybean crops, which are genetically engineered to withstand the pesticide. It is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s signature herbicide, Roundup. Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo is a combination of glyphosate and the older herbicide 2,4-D. Despite strong opposition from EWG and other public health and environmental organizations, the EPA last year approved the use of Enlist Duo in six states and is currently considering applications to broaden its use to 10 other states.

Last week, Just Label It, along with a number of other public interest groups, sent a letter to McCarthy similar to that of Markey.   “As the EPA moves forward with its risk assessment of glyphosate in its duty to protect human and environmental health,” the letter said, “we urge the agency to strongly weigh this action by the World Health Organization, and consider whether immediate use restrictions are necessary to protect human health and the environment.”

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